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GRAHAM COUNTY'S RELIGIOUS ROOTS RUN DEEP
By Marshall McClung
Religion has played a major role in the lives of the people of Graham County since people first began settling here. To understand this, you must know something of the background of these hardy people who settled this area. Most were of Scotch-Irish ancestry with a strong desire to be able to worship God as they saw fit. Most were seeking relief from religious oppression which was a driving force to undertake a new life here.
Our early settlers were of an independent nature which was essential to their survival when they arrived here. This was rugged land, and it took a rugged people to survive here in the beginning. Graham County and all of western North Carolina for that matter was an uncarved wilderness inhabited only by the Cherokee Indians, a perhaps a few hunters and trappers passing through. There were no roads, and very few trails, and they were known only to the Cherokee. Early maps of this area show very little detail in the way of landmarks, but rather listing the area as "uncharted", "unmapped", or simply as "Indian Territory."
Perhaps it was this isolation that brought about a deep faith in God, since the early settlers realized a need for divine help if they were going to survive. This seemed to be the case so much so that the church or "meeting house" as ft was often called in those days became the central part of the community. Here souls were saved, the young taught the gospel, and marriages and funerals performed. Often through the week, some of the churches served as one room schoolhouses and as a church on Sundays. As the population slowly grew, and new communities developed, so did the churches or "meeting houses." Soon, almost every community had a church.
The Bear Creek Baptist Church located near the headwaters of Tallulah Creek was typical of others mountain churches here. Bear Creek Church was established April 22, 1922 by John Colvard, R.L. West, and Will George. As mentioned earlier, many churches doubled as schools through the week, and Bear Creek was no exception. The first church stood just about where the present one does. People in the community said ft had to be propped up with poles. Amanda Crisp, Harriet Crisp, Birdie Morgan, "Abe" Postell, Daisy Slaughter, Margaret Stanfield, and Margaret Taylor all served as teachers at Bear Creek. The number of students ranged around thirty at any given time.
The photograph accompanying this story was the second church building to be constructed at Bear Creek. In later years a porch was added along with white siding. This building was torn down for construction of the present building.
You will notice that there are several young people in the photograph preparing for a baptism. Note that the girl's dresses are pinned to prevent them from "floating up" when immersed in water. The photographs were thought to have been taken around 1942. Ironically, some of the young men in the photograph, such as Dillard Moody would soon be overseas fighting in World War II for the very freedom to worship as well as other freedoms that we still enjoy, and regretfully taken for granted I fear. Freedom is by no means free; it carries a very high price, something we should never forget. Moody was overseas for around three years before he got to return home. Twenty-four others did not return. Many who did were wounded both physically and emotionally. We owe them all a deep debt of gratitude.
Agriculture Arts and Crafts Cherohala Skyway Cherokee Nation Churches
Education Election Information Emergency Services Family Resources Fontana Dam
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Hiking/Camping History Local Color Library Map of Graham Co. Media
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These pages are from the people of Graham County, North Carolina.
For additional information on Graham County Adventures
the Travel and Tourism Authority or
go to the Visitors Information Center of the Travel and Tourism Authority Webpage
or call 1-800-470-3790 or 828-479-3790 Fax 1-828-479-4733
This page is maintained by Tom Livingston, Robbinsville, North Carolina